Melina Harris

Melina Harris is a freelance sports writer, book editor, English tutor and PTR qualified tennis coach from London. For more information and contact details please visit and subscribe to her website and blog at http://www.thetenniswriter.wordpress.com and follow her twitter updates via http://www.twitter.com/thetenniswriter. She is available for freelance writing, editing and one to one private teaching and coaching.
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Murray Applies the Heat in Flushing Meadows…

Despite looking suspiciously like Jasper, the dashing vampire from the Twilight films, Slovakian, Lukas Lacko failed to draw blood against an impressive Andy Murray amidst the blistering heat of a New York afternoon, losing 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in just under two hours.

Murray used his typical variety of shot to gain two break points with a drop shot at 2-1 in the first set; a fabulous topspin lob awarded him his first break of serve. A muscular looking Murray continued his aggressive style of late, in the following games, stepping well inside the baseline to attack Lacko’s second serve and approach the net; a tactic that served him well throughout the course of the match. After a closely fought game at 5-3 and a couple of erratic shots from Murray, the Scot took the first set in 38 minutes.

Murray applied the pressure early on in the second set, breaking Lacko immediately, however buoyed by an audacious defensive shot in the second game, Lacko broke back straight away to level the set at one game a-piece. After taking out his frustration on his racket, Murray decided it was time for a new one and broke back once again in the following game.

A couple of service holds later and Murray went up a gear once again to set up three break points; a double fault by Lacko handed him the game and a definite psychological advantage. There really was no return for the Slovakian as Murray served out the second set with a penetrating forehand winner.

Murray’s impressive serving and aggressive returning made it hard work for Lacko who still didn’t have the answers in the final set, going down 6-2 once again.

The signs look bright for the Briton, who looks set to progress well into the tournament and possibly go all the way. Memories of a once physically weak Murray, cramping through lack of conditioning, have well and truly faded into insignificance; he could almost give the werewolves in Twilight a run for their money; well maybe not, but a transformation has certainly occurred.

Melina Harris is a freelance sports writer, book editor, English tutor and PTR qualified tennis coach. For more information and contact details please visit and subscribe to her website and blog at http://www.thetenniswriter.wordpress.com and follow her twitter updates via http://www.twitter.com/thetenniswriter. She is available for freelance writing, editing and one to one private teaching and coaching.

US Open Preview: Murray vs Federer

Andy Murray’s recent impressive defence of his Toronto Master’s title following back to back victories over Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, has meant that once again he is one of the firm favourites for the US Open which starts tomorrow.

The final marked a welcome return to the more aggressive style of play witnessed before the devastating psychological impact of losing to Roger Federer in the Australian Open at the start of the year. The Canadian fans were treated to a more focused and mature performance from the young Scot, unnerved by the rain delays and the prospect of facing his arch nemesis once again, prevailing 7-5, 7-5 to record his first title victory of the season.

The win brought Murray’s head to head record to seven wins out of twelve against the majestic Swiss master, but the world waits with baited breath to see whether he can maintain his form throughout the grueling two weeks of a Grand Slam or simply continue his reign as the best player never to have won a major.

Murray remains confident of his chances and revealed, “I feel very fresh after taking a couple of days off after reaching the quarter finals in Cincinnati and right now I’m fine physically. The Toronto win was very good for the confidence and now I’ve been in New York, a city I love, for a week. I feel good which is important because I know I have got to produce my best tennis.”

Indeed, on recent form and the shape of the US Open draw, Murray is likely to face Federer once again in the final, with Rafael Nadal certainly less impressive during the American hard court season. While each feels equally confident of victory, their summer preparations couldn’t have been further apart.

Murray has spent the summer enjoying his rekindled romance with Kim Sears, whilst Federer has had to come to terms with balancing being a father to twins with the pressures of the tour; a fact he has taken into consideration when taking on the advice of new coach, Paul Annacone, who also had children early in his playing career. Meanwhile, in July Murray chose to sever ties with his coach of two and a half years, Miles Maclagan.

Will Murray carry on his good form and survive the two weeks unscathed as a lone ranger or will Federer succeed with the inspiration and insight of his new right hand man and former coach of Pete Sampras? Or will a certain Spaniard spoil the party? Be sure to tune and join the rollercoaster ride at Flushing Meadows, but remember to hold on to your hats and glasses folks, as we’re certainly in for some unpredictable twists and turns!

Melina Harris is a freelance sports writer, book editor, English tutor and PTR qualified tennis coach. For more information and contact details please visit and subscribe to her website and blog at http://www.thetenniswriter.wordpress.com and follow her twitter updates @thetenniswriter. She is available for freelance writing, editing and one to one private teaching and coaching.

BRITISH WEATHER INDECISIVE BUT MURRAY AND RODDICK SHINE AT QUEEN’S CLUB

Andy Roddick

The indecisive British weather threatened for most of the day causing play to be held back until 1.30pm on Centre Court and the players to be pulled off for a break at 3.30pm during a heavy shower. However, the sunshine prevailed towards the latter stages, but unfortunately did not shine kindly on British No. 2, Alex Bogdanovic who lost the final set to talented Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov 6-4 after a missed challenge and two double faults ended his campaign on Centre Court. Bogdanovic revealed his “disappointment” over having his funding cut by the Lawn Tennis Association after the match, but remained positive that he could still be “a top 100 player”.

Next up on centre was the talented Frenchman, No. 6 seed Gael Monfils against German, Rainer Schuettler, ranked No. 82 in the ATP world rankings. During the first game, Monfils appeared to twist his knee and looked extremely uncomfortable moving on the grass for the rest of the match losing in three 6-3, 6-7, 6-2, meaning the former Wimbledon semifinalist, Shuettler had pulled off his biggest win since beating Sam Querrey in the first round of this year’s Australian Open.

Performance of day two at Queen’s had to go to Andy Murray, who was next up on centre, playing Ivan Navarro. Surprisingly for a Spaniard, Navarro took his serve volley game to Murray who did well to get the first set to his first tiebreak at Queen’s since 2008. Murray managed to pull off some spectacular shots to take the first set, which must have thrilled his girlfriend, Kim Sears back watching on the side lines since rekindling their romance earlier this year. Murray started to see the ball a lot better in the second set, winning it convincingly 6-3. He came back at the end of the day’s play to partner his brother Jamie against Sam Querrey and Scott Lipsky of the USA. The pair looked impressive as they won in two in front of a more vocal home crowd after several glasses of Pimms. Murray was suitably grumpy in the post match press conference and I can see why he hasn’t always won many popularity points with the press.

Andy Roddick made easy work of Russian Igor Kunitsyn, thrashing him 6-2, 6-1 in a flash. Roddick revealed an interesting theory after the match, saying that he would “love three months of 1000 tournaments in the lead up to Wimbledon. We have a couple of 250s before Wimbledon. So for me that’s just a glaring issue, you know.” More Pimms and strawberries for three months before Wimbledon? I second that Andy, but what about the weather?

Melina Harris is a freelance sports writer, book editor, English tutor and PTR qualified tennis coach. For more information and contact details please visit and subscribe to her website and blog at http://www.thetenniswriter.wordpress.com and follow her twitter updates via http://www.twitter.com/thetenniswriter.   She is available for freelance writing, editing and one to one private teaching and coaching.

NEWS, VIEWS AND GOSSIP FROM QUEEN’S CLUB

Novak Djokovic

LONDON – As I walked from Barons Court tube station, feeling the buzz of excitement, I was pleased to dodge the long train of tennis fans snaking their way around Queen’s Club for ground passes and head straight for the dizzy heights of the media gazebo. I was immediately distracted by a dashing familiar stranger directly in front of me – former Wimbledon champion, Pat Cash. It never fails to amaze me how many famous faces you will see mingling with the public at both Queen’s and Wimbledon. That’s what I love about these tournaments.

While waiting for my press pass, BBC Commentator and Andy Murray’s former coach, Mark Petchey surprisingly needed to give his name to the girl behind the counter. Two famous commentators spotted and I hadn’t even entered the grounds yet.

I was led to the media centre directly behind centre court, shown where the press seats were situated and was greeted by the lovely Sue Barker, ex Davis Cup Captain, John Lloyd, commentator John Inverdale and former British No. 1, Annabel Croft congregating in the bar area – how surreal!

I found my way through the maze of stairs and corridors to the press seats to watch the first match on centre – Britain’s wild card entry, Jamie Baker versus Denis Istomin. Baker, ranked No. 254 in the ATP World Tour rankings failed to get any sort of grip on the match or the slippery grass surface as he lost 6-1, 6-4, falling no less than three times on his backside, repeatedly chastising his shoes for letting him down. In the post match press conference, he looked a little forlorn as he mentioned the difficulty of “stepping up to the level of the player” he was up against. It remained to be seen whether Brits, James Ward and Alex Bogdanovic would fare any better.

During the second set of Baker’s match, I couldn’t help but notice a tanned and gorgeous Novak Djokovic strolling nonchalantly to the practice courts beneath us – knowing how close you can get to the players practicing, I rejected the nonchalance and nearly broke my leg rushing down the several flights of stairs in heels to get a prime position to watch my favorite player’s tomfoolery on the beautiful grass.

He didn’t fail to disappoint with his series of jokes, trick shots and a well timed shirt change! I wished I’d brought my tennis gear and trainers, as I have a feeling he could have sneaked me on court for a quick rally or two – well, maybe in my dreams!

After the Djoker sadly left the practice courts, I wandered back to the press seats to see if Britain’s James Ward could fare any better. He was against stiff opposition in the form of American Robby Ginepri, who looked a little incongruous in his colored shorts and shirt on the grass. Ward put up a decent display and should have had a convincing 5-2 lead in the second set if he’d held his serve after breaking the American in the sixth game, but instead he allowed Ginepri to come back and secure a 6-3, 7-5 victory. Ward spoke of his relationship with the new British Davis Cup Captain, Leon Smith in the post match press conference, revealing, “I’ve been in contact with Leon the whole time I was in America. I was away for seven weeks. E-mails, text messages, BBM, everything. Since I’ve been back, he’s been to see me practice a lot, and I’m looking forward to working with him.”

A fellow journalist told me the Murray brothers were training on an outside court in preparation for their doubles match later that evening, so I nipped out of the media centre to watch Britain’s top hopeful. When I arrived I barely recognized his brother Jamie, who appeared to have had an argument with his hairdresser, as he was sporting a pretty horrific crew cut fit for the army. Apparently Andy commented on Twitter, saying he hoped Jamie had kept the receipt – who said he doesn’t have a sense of humour?

Team Murray were on good form as they practiced varying volley to ground stroke drills to a heaving crowd. A Spanish coach tried to get them off the court early – on home turf – adios! French maestro, Richard Gasquet was due on Centre court so I left the Murrays to it and headed back once again up the stairs to the press seats – who said being a reporter wasn’t hard work?

Eleventh seed, Gasquet faced Japan’s Kei Nishikori, who turned out to be no push over in a 6-3, 6-3 victory for the Frenchman, whose glorious backhand was really a sight to be seen first-hand. Gasquet often needed a translator to answer journalist’s questions, but revealed he believes the French have had such a great tradition on grass due to “good technique” and the talent needed to succeed on grass rather than clay.  No one could ever say he lacks talent, but it remains to be seen if he will ever weave his way like a cobra to the top ten again – his highest ranking was No. 7, but is now placed at No. 45.

Britain’s No. 2, Alex Bogdanovic was up next after getting through the qualifying rounds to play Bulgarian former Wimbledon junior champion, Grigor Dimitriv, currently ranked 360 in the ATP World rankings. Bogdanovic looked comfortable in front of his home crowd winning the first set convincingly 6-4, but lost the second 6-3. Rain stopped play at 2-1 in the third. If Bogdanovic loses the third, then Murray will be the only Britain left in the tournament – a situation he is very familiar with.

For the past eight years, a first round defeat at Wimbledon for Alex Bogdanovic following wild card entry has been as predictable as rain stopping play, but he still must have been a little bemused that he had been left out of the All England Club’s first batch of wild cards along with being denied one for the Aegon Championships at The Queen’s Club this week. He has also stubbornly refused to rejoin the Davis Cup fold following his miserable performances in the past. I really do hope that tomorrow brings some much needed luck for Alex and sunshine instead of rain for my second day reporting for www.TennisGrandstand.com Watch this space for more news, views and gossip from London.

Melina Harris is a freelance sports writer, book editor, English tutor and PTR qualified tennis coach. For more information and contact details please visit and subscribe to her website and blog at http://www.thetenniswriter.wordpress.com and follow her twitter updates via http://www.twitter.com/thetenniswriter.   She is available for freelance writing, editing and one to one private teaching and coaching.

MURRAY REPEATS WIMBLEDON COMEBACK

By Melina Harris

At two sets to love down to Richard Gasquet in the first round of the French Open on a balmy court Suzanne Lenglen Monday, Andy Murray must have taken heart from his thrilling comeback against the young Frenchman at Wimbledon in 2008, when at two sets to love down, Centre Court erupted as he fought back valiantly to win the match in an epic five set battle, only to be annihilated by eventual winner Rafael Nadal.

After being wiped out by Gasquet’s penetrating backhand in the first two sets, Murray managed to claw his way back with some impressive defensive tennis after his opponent began to show visible signs of fatigue following his impressive title victory against Fernando Verdasco last Saturday in Nice. Gasquet had requested more recovery time, but his appeal was declined, much to Murray’s favor who capitalized in the final three sets to win, 4-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-1, completing the victory with an ace into the corner of the advantage court. Gasquet was reflective after the match; “He [Murray] is always fighting, fighting, putting the balls in the court. Even if he is not playing so good, it is very tough to beat him.”

Once the game went into a fifth set, statistically there was only ever going to be one winner; for Andy Murray had won six of his previous seven five set matches, while Richard Gasquet had lost a miserable eight out of his past nine. The match lasted a lengthy 4 hours and 4 minutes, causing Murray’s troublesome knee to flare up after the match, which needed intensive icing. The world No. 4 has a bipartite patella (a split right knee cap) which he will have to cope with for the rest of his tennis career. Murray said after the match, “My [right] knee is sore, a four-hour match probably wasn’t the best thing for it. I have to manage the problems as best I can.  It hurts at different times of the year and there is nothing I can do about it because it was just something I was born with and I am going to have to deal with it for the rest of my career. It’s a lot worse than people think and hurts for the majority of the year.”

His knee issue is not the only problem he will have to overcome to continue further into the tournament, his low first serve percentage, delivering just 46 percent against Gasquet will have to be improved as it exposes a second serve that everyone in the game is well aware lacks penetration; a weakness that the clay court specialists will inevitably pounce on with devastating accuracy. However, Murray was brimming with confidence when asked about his second round clash with Juan Ignacio Chela, the Argentine he beat in straight sets in Madrid last week, stating “Chela is a very good player but I feel good going into the match and will be confident.”  He has an impressive one hundred percent record against the Argentine, winning each of the five encounters between the pair, so Murray can afford to go into the second round with a positive frame of mind, while British fans will still undoubtedly be holding their breath!

Melina Harris is a freelance sports writer, book editor, English tutor and PTR qualified tennis coach. For more information and contact details please visit and subscribe to her website and blog at http://www.thetenniswriter.wordpress.com and follow her twitter updates via http://www.twitter.com/thetenniswriter.   She is available for freelance writing, editing and one to one private teaching and coaching.

BRYAN BROTHERS ROCK-AND-ROLL ON – AND OFF – THE COURT

Bryans Brothers

The Bryan Brothers equalled the Open Era doubles record of the Australian Woodies, Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodford on Sunday by securing their 61st victory of their careers in the Madrid Masters doubles final. The telepathic twins beat world No. 1 pair, Daniel Nestor and partner Nenad Zimonjic 6-3, 6-4 in a final lasting only 55 minutes. Nestor and his partner were broken twice, with the Americans saving all three break points they faced. The brothers ruthlessly claimed victory on the first match point they gained. Interestingly, all twelve previous meetings between the teams have come in finals, seven of those in Masters events.

Nestor commented, “The Bryans always play us tough…we’ve had some good wins against them but they’ve been too tough this season. Obviously, it’s all about the Slams for us now, and our next big objective is the French Open. We’ll head to Paris now and regroup. We want to be playing our best in a week when the major begins.”

Like the Woodies, the brothers are a left-right combination, which they used to great effect in the final. Bob commented, “That is definitely the best combination…the sun out there today was really bad for a leftie, so we decided to put Mike on a different side. We can use winds to our advantage and the leftie serve is always tougher to break, I think. We feel like our game is pretty comfortable if I make first serves and Mike is such a good returner he keeps us in other guys’ service games.”

The Bryan Brothers have now leapt to the pinnacle of the world doubles rankings overtaking Nestor and Zimonjic as the world No. 1 doubles pair. The impressive brothers began 2010 with their eighth grand slam title at the Australian Open and have already won titles in Delray Beach, Houston and Rome. If they were to become victorious at the French Open in three weeks time, they will break the record held by the Woodies in some style, with a Grand Slam win.

Indeed, they show no sign of relaxing their steely grip on the world doubles tour and will no doubt break the record in impressive style and go on to win even more titles, keeping the doubles tour in the media spotlight for the next generation of tennis players. “We’re still having fun. It never gets old or boring to be travelling the world with your brother,” Mike said. “We love winning titles and sharing the trophies and memories. We don’t want to say, ‘Now that we’ve done this or that, we’re going to retire next year.’ I don’t think we’d find this adrenalin sitting on the couch at home so we might as well soak it up while we can.”

The talented twins have also been enjoying the adrenalin rush of playing in their rock band, The Bryan Bros Band at various concert venues around the world with singer David Baron. They even performed with the Counting Crows in front of 30,000 screaming fans. It seems for the twins, success is like a drug they cannot easily give up. You can download their new album ‘Let it Rip’ on iTunes now. British fans, check out the hilariously awful rap by Andy Murray on one of the tracks, alongside a slighter better Novak Djokovic about signing autographs – it’s well worth a listen and the other tracks are actually pretty catchy!

Melina Harris is a freelance sports writer, book editor, English tutor and PTR qualified tennis coach. For more information and contact details please visit and subscribe to her website and blog at http://www.thetenniswriter.wordpress.com and follow her twitter updates via http://www.twitter.com/thetenniswriter.   She is available for freelance writing, editing and one to one private teaching and coaching.

WOMEN FALL LIKE DOMINOS IN MADRID

The clay courts of the Madrid Open have provided some shock exits in the first round this week, with Justine Henin, Dinara Safina, Maria Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsova falling like dominos to the dismay of tournament chairman Manuel Santana, who breathed a sigh of relief as top seed Serena Williams managed to survive a match point to get through her first match of the tournament against Vera Dushevina, 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 – lasting a mammoth 3 hours and 26 minutes.

The American world No. 1 looked on her way out of the clay event when the unseeded Russian had a match point at 6-5 in the second set. Visibly chastising herself on court and appealing wildly to her father and coach Richard Williams in the stands, she miraculously summoned her enormous willpower to claw her way back and take the deciding set despite having a long treatment break for what appeared to be right thigh and lower back problems. She revealed “After so long on the court, I was saying to myself, ‘You’d better win this thing’”.

After squandering one match point with a wild backhand at 6-4 on the third set tie break, a ninth ace on the next point provoked a primal cry of joy from the 28 year old, who said “When I shout like that, it’s just to get energised. I need my emotion to help me play better.” She is now on course to meet Russian sixth seed Elena Dementieva in the last eight. Her sister, fourth-seeded Venus Williams also downed Swiss qualifier Stefanie Voegele 6-4, 6-2 to proceed.

Meanwhile, Aravane Rezai of France beat Justine Henin. 4-6, 7-5, 6-0, who revealed she had not fully recovered after falling ill following her win at the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart last weekend, her first title since coming out of retirement.

Lucia Safarova of the Czech Republic defeated Russian bombshell Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-3 to the disappointment of her male fans in Madrid. The leggy blonde commented “It’s a struggle trying to find the rhythm…I thought she played really solid, good tennis and did everything she needed to win the match. More solid than me anyway.”

Israel’s Shahar Peer recorded the biggest upset, defeating the reigning French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 2-6, 6-0 after the Russian dropped serve six times in the match and said “I’ve been playing well since the beginning of the year. Even the matches I’m losing, it’s just a point here and a point there. I’ve been working very hard on my game the last two years and I saw the fruits starting to come last summer. I’m playing with a lot of confidence right now.”

Dinara Safina’s preparations for the French Open took a serious knock after she lost 7-6, 7-6 to Czech qualifier Klara Zakopalova in the first round. The defending champion claimed seven breaks of serve, but the 28-year-old from Prague dominated the tiebreaks only allowing Safina one point in the first, and three in the second. Despite being the runner up in the last two French Open finals, Safina struggled on the clay and has slipped from three to five in the updated WTA rankings on Monday.

Melina Harris is a freelance sports writer, book editor, English tutor and PTR qualified tennis coach. For more information and contact details please visit and subscribe to her website and blog at http://www.thetenniswriter.wordpress.com and follow her twitter updates via http://www.twitter.com/thetenniswriter.   She is available for freelance writing, editing and one to one private teaching and coaching.

WHERE IS BRITISH WOMEN’S TENNIS?: 25 YEARS SINCE ANNABEL CROFT’S BRITISH WIN

Annabel Croft

Today, April 28, 2010, marks the 25th anniversary of the last fully British female to win a WTA Tour singles title (Monique Javer won a WTA Tour singles title in 1988 but was only half British). On 28th April 1985, 18-year-old Annabel Croft of Great Britain, ranked No. 83 at the time defeated world No. 7 Wendy Turnbull 6-0, 7-6(5) to win the Virginia Slims of San Diego and her first WTA Tour Title, causing much excitement amongst the British press. The young British hopeful never rose to expectations caused by this victory and failed to win another title before quitting her professional career in 1988.

I doubt this statistic will bring a smile to the already frowning LTA reeling from the recent government report on their expenditure. But who within the British camp is remotely ready to step up and claim the next WTA tour singles title?

British No. 1, Elena Baltacha has certainly had a wonderful start to the year rising to a ranking high of No. 59, memorably beating world No. 10 Li Na in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells only to lose in the next round to Alicia Molik. She is currently training in preparation for the WTA event in Rome and it remains to be seen if she can produce back to back performances throughout the course of a tournament to win her first WTA title.

Britain’s Anne Keothovong and Katie O’Brien both won their first round matches of the Grand Prix De Sar La Princesse Lalla Meryem in Morocco. Keothovong recovered from an embarrassing second set performance to defeat France’s Julie Coin to win 6-3, 0-6, 6-4, but her form this year after being forced out of the game for six months due to a knee injury has hardly given enough evidence to suggest enough consistency to flip the coin of British tennis fortunes in the near future. Fellow Brit, O’Brien defeated France’s Pauline Parmentier 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 and commented “I was really pleased to come through my first match of the year on clay, especially as I haven’t had ideal preparation. I only started hitting on the clay a few days ago, as I was stranded in South Africa for six days where there weren’t any clay courts. I had to take five flights over two days to get to Fes, but I’ve recovered well, all considered. I’m now looking forward to tomorrow’s match against Renata Voracova. I lost to her last year in three sets on the clay, so I’m aiming to get my revenge.” She received more good news when it was confirmed that she had been given the key to a main draw entry in the French Open following the withdrawal of Sania Mirza. Out of the three, O’Brien is the less likely to emulate Croft’s singles victory considering her lack of victories over top ranked players.

Meanwhile, 16-year-old Laura Robson recently reached the semifinals of the $50k event in Alabama after winning five consecutive matches in the USA, battling to a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 victory over the world No. 144 Sophie Ferguson of Australia in the quarterfinals; an excellent indication of the consistency of Robson throughout a tournament considering she also came through two matched in the qualifying rounds. She also went on a fine run to the quarterfinals in the doubles with fellow Brit Heather Watson. Could Robson be the one to break the 25 year wait?

Robson’s achievements in Alabama have seen her rise an impressive 46 places to a career high of No. 269 in this week’s WTA singles rankings. She also sits at No. 103 in doubles, another career high due to her great run of form that saw her reach the semi finals in doubles at the $25k event in Osprey, Florida the week before. I have a feeling we may need to wait a little while longer for our young star to win a WTA singles title, however perhaps she will be the one to bring home a Grand Slam too; we can only dream.

Melina Harris is a freelance sports writer, book editor, English tutor and PTR qualified tennis coach. For more information and contact details please visit and subscribe to her website and blog at http://www.thetenniswriter.wordpress.com and follow her twitter updates via http://www.twitter.com/thetenniswriter.   She is available for freelance writing, editing and one to one private teaching and coaching.

LTA AS ERRATIC AS MURRAY

Andy Murray

If you thought Andy Murray was uncharacteristically erratic in Monte Carlo on Wednesday, the whole match served perfectly as a metaphor for the strange behavior of Britain’s Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) in recent weeks following the findings of the government’s report. The appointment of Murray’s former mentor Leon Smith as the new Davis Cup Captain has certainly raised a few eyebrows within the tennis world, with many left wondering if the experience of mentoring the Scot during his undoubtedly temperamental teenage years is enough to merit entrusting the 34-year-old with the future of British tennis? No doubt it must have taken some strength of character to handle 13-year-old Murray in a strop, but does he have the charisma to stir the team to victory and lure his former apprentice, the black sheep of British tennis, back into the fold?

Smith’s appointment signifies a distinctly strange choice for the LTA to make considering Greg Rusedski, an experienced Davis Cup player and popular choice amongst the players, was in the running for the job. It must be noted that great players do not always make the best of coaches, but still the decision symbolized one of Murray’s wild forehands out of court, rather than a safe topspin drive two feet within the baseline for the governing body. What is interesting is the motivation for this decision.

Smith described the appointment as “a huge honour and an irresistible challenge for me,” and went on to say, “I know the players, and I know that together we can get Britain back to winning ways in the Davis Cup.” Despite only reaching junior county level tennis for the West of Scotland and never coaching anyone over the age of 16, he has been appointed LTA head of men’s tennis following the recommendations of a review carried out by LTA player director Steve Martens, along with the accolade of Davis Cup Captain. Perhaps I should have applied for the job considering my similar levels of playing and coaching experience!

Martens commented, “Leon is the perfect fit for this important role, at this stage in the development of British men’s tennis. He’s a young British coach full of energy and passion, who’s already proved he’s a quick learner, and has the respect of the players” but was it simply a case of bowing to peer pressure from Murray?

It has appeared in recent weeks that the LTA can’t seem to make an independent decision of their own, with high profile employees delegating decisions left, right and center, while the appointment of Smith looks significantly as if they were blindly following the consensus of Murray who vocalized his opinions on Rusedski and the type of coach he would want as captain, although he has gone on record stating he had not named Leon Smith personally as his choice to the LTA. They were publicly criticized for the acquisition of high profile coaches such as Brad Gilbert, but once again this would suggest a knee jerk reaction to public opinion in appointing a relative unknown, a stab in the dark rather than a reasoned choice; only time will tell whether they have made yet another mistake.

Public opinion of the governing body cannot have been improved following their president, Derek Howorth’s erratic and strange public performance at The National Premier Indoor Tennis League’s official dinner, when reportedly during his speech, instead of politely commenting on the event, he took the opportunity to tear the British press to shreds, celebrated the LTA’s achievements and commented weakly that all will be put right eventually, clearly unconvinced that there is anything wrong with his beloved institution. Unsurprisingly, like a horrendous contestant on the X-factor, he was heckled by a lady in the audience. I have an idea what Simon Cowell might have said.

Indeed, it is clear the cracks are starting to appear deep in the armour of the establishment. According to reports in The Times, the LTA made another embarrassing bloomer, when their sports journalist was the one to point out that the LTA had got their entry procedures wrong for the ITF junior tournament in Nottingham – oops! The LTA should have submitted a top 75 ranking list to the appropriate authorities, but this was not carried out thus leaving the selection to be random, leaving out a number of top British juniors. Suffice to say, there were a number of seriously annoyed parents sulking across the country, shaking their heads in disbelief. The LTA’s response was: “New regulations were introduced for 2010 allowing national associations to submit a list of nationally ranked players after players with an ITF ranking. Communication on this new rule was not picked up in time to be implemented for the first two events in GB for this year. To cater for this, any relevant players adversely affected were considered by the national coaches for wild cards into qualifying.” The LTA admitted, “We didn’t apply the regulations as in effect per January 2010. This is unfortunate and, hands up, we made a mistake. The wild cards that were given out in qualifying could cater for a large group of the players without an ITF ranking but with a good domestic ranking; however this is not perfect”. Surely with a 60 million turnover, someone could have noticed and implemented this rule change?

This echoes with my own experience as an LTA ranked junior player aged 15, when results were not put in from a ratings tournament in which I embarked on a run so impressive that I faced Britain’s former No. 1, Anne Keothovong in the final, only to be told the points I had amassed from the tournament had not been added to my junior rating. This meant that my rating did not go up to where I belonged that year and when trying to rectify the situation, my mother was faced with the same kind of ‘closed shop’ treatment as the government, who recently commented that had the LTA been more open as an organization, the report would have been much easier to compile. It’s not a coincidence that my enthusiasm for the game dropped like a deflated helium balloon as I chose the safer option to pursue higher education, rather than a career as a professional tennis player.

Unfortunately, it is clear the chasm does run deep into the junior ranks and it is of no shock that this ripple effect over the years caused the tsunami of that infamous Davis Cup loss and the subsequent earthquakes of media attention the president is so obviously riled up about. So where is the solution? Well Mr. President, perhaps a look into the pool of unemployed graduate talent could be a start as replacements for the incompetent employees missing crucial rule changes and being about as decisive as a kid in a candy shop? Now, there’s a thought. Hopefully he’ll start ranting about me next!

Melina Harris is a freelance sports writer, book editor, English tutor and PTR qualified tennis coach. For more information and contact details please visit and subscribe to her website and blog at http://www.thetenniswriter.wordpress.com and follow her twitter updates via http://www.twitter.com/thetenniswriter.   She is available for freelance writing, editing and one to one private teaching and coaching.

IS ANDY MURRAY BACK WITH HIS GIRLFRIEND?

Kim Sears and Andy Murray

British fans can all breathe a collective sigh of relief if reports are to be believed, that British No. 1, Andy Murray, is back with his ex-girlfriend of four years, Kim Sears.

The couple, who split last November after four years, are understood to have met up a number of times in recent weeks. This includes a sighting of the loved-up pair smooching over a couple of sausage sandwiches in Wimbledon Common, a stone’s throw from the hallowed grounds of the world’s greatest grass tournament where Sears had become as much a part of the furniture as Sir Cliff Richard, as she cheered on Murray year after year sat next to his animated mother Judy.

In the last few weeks, there have been other unconfirmed sightings of the couple, including a woman closely resembling Sears going into Murray’s mansion holding on to the other love of his life – his precious pooch, Maggie. The couple have also been seen together in Murray’s Mini Cooper, but when asked if he wished to discuss the rekindled romance, Murray smiled and said ‘No, no, but thank you’ while Kim’s mother refused to comment. Friends of the couple are reported to have been a little more revealing, with one admitting it was ‘early days,’ while a neighbor went so far as to confirm, ‘Yes, they are back together.’

Since Roger Federer’s comprehensive lecture on how to win a Grand Slam way back in January in the Australian Open final, Murray’s form has dipped considerably with a string of disappointing results. Although the months in the run up to the first Grand Slam of the year where Murray’s ‘alone time’ as a bachelor allowed him the time to focus solely on his career and the results followed, since his loss to Federer, the lack of a significant other seems to have affected him mentally. Perhaps old Muzza had to learn the hard way that the computer game ‘Call of Duty’ (which was apparently one of the factors in the break up to begin with) cannot provide anywhere near the sort of emotional support a girlfriend can – especially a beautiful, stylish, intelligent one (she is studying for a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English at Brighton University). It cannot go unnoticed that Andy Roddick seems to be doing a little better with stunner Brooklyn Decker on his arm, while the Fed’s career seems to have been enhanced by the emotional stability his wife provides. And really, let’s be honest, where would Barack be without Michelle?

Interestingly, Murray admitted after his recent loss to Mardy Fish in Miami that ‘I’ve been very happy off the court, just not on it’, perhaps a reference to time spent with Kim and has previously admitted he played better when in a relationship. We can only hope that with her support and encouragement he will fall as much back in love with the beautiful game as with her,  a game which is so often described as a love affair of sorts by players throughout history. For the moment their relationship appears to be pivoting at 40-love and I reckon all it needs is one more grand romantic gesture, and it’ll be game, set and match for our main man and hopefully British tennis, which needs a positive boost in the run up to Wimbledon. Here’s a little hint Andy, diamonds are a girl’s best friend!

Melina Harris is a freelance sports writer, book editor, English tutor and PTR qualified tennis coach. For more information and contact details please visit and subscribe to her website and blog at http://www.thetenniswriter.wordpress.com and follow her twitter updates via http://www.twitter.com/thetenniswriter.   She is available for freelance writing, editing and one to one private teaching and coaching.

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